Mystery Mondays: Dave Butler on MYSTERY WRITERS PAYING IT FORWARD

DaveButler_profilepicThis week on Mystery Mondays, I’m pleased to host author, Dave Butler. Dave lives a couple of hours from my home in British Columbia, Canada.

I’ve hosted authors from all over the world, and this is the closest one has been in distance. Kinda cool, I think.

And congratulations are in order. Full Curl was short listed for the 2015 Crime Writers of Canada Unhanged Arthur Ellis award for best unpublished crime fiction. Now Full Curl is published by Dundurn Press!

So over to Dave…

MYSTERY WRITERS PAYING IT FORWARD

By Dave Butler

Paying it forward: “beneficiary of a good deed repaying it to others instead of to the original benefactor.”

 Coming to mystery writing from the world of business, I was ready for the worst. In the list of literary genres, mystery/thriller is second only to romance/erotica in sales (there’s a cross-over opportunity there, but I digress…), so I knew that the potential for fame and fortune was very high (😉). I expected that writers would jostle with each other in dog-consumes-dog, winner-take-all battles, that trade secrets would be held close to protective chests, that there’d be fisticuffs for the right to be noticed by a tiny pool of hungry agents and publishers, and that despairing writers would pounce on every opportunity to trip up competitors and then step over (or on) their cold corpses to get ahead.

And with many of us living lonely solitary lives, with long hours and little in the way of validation or gratification, I assumed that the potential was also high that I’d be interacting with people who were one rejection slip away from being basement-dwelling serial killers.

However, I was wrong. It has been a pleasant surprise to discover that it’s not like that at all (with the possible exception of the serial killer potential … that I’m still not sure about…). Instead, I’ve found writers, particularly in the mystery/thriller world, to be incredibly gracious, open and friendly, and welcoming to newcomers.

In my own situation, I was lucky to have Full Curl, my first novel, shortlisted for the Unhanged Arthur Award in 2015. I had no idea what to expect when I attended the Crime Writers of Canada’s Arthur Ellis awards banquet in Toronto. While I didn’t win (way to go, Elle Wild!), I was immediately overwhelmed by how welcome I felt.

As an example, I shared dinner that evening with Ian Hamilton (author of the successful Ava Lee series). He was patient with my rookie questions, and kind in sharing experience and advice. In a Toronto bar later that evening, over a glass or two of Forty Creek whisky, he asked me the pivotal question that then played a role in a multi-book deal for me. “Why don’t you write a series?” he asked.

That same pattern has been repeated many times. I see it when I share a coffee with other mystery writers, when I read communications from the Crime Writers of Canada, and when I attend workshops and conferences. It’s almost as though “paying it forward” has become what we do in our genre.

One could argue that holding everything close to our chests might mean that we can grab more of the pie for ourselves. But I’ve realized that growing the genre, both in readers and writers, is good for all.

It’s clear that deciding to “pay it forward,” or not, is very much an individual decision. Perhaps it’s a moral and ethical responsibility, but it depends on your own perspective and your own experience. And it doesn’t mean spending so much time helping others that you miss deadlines, or lose the muse. But by sharing information on the writing life, on the business of writing, we all move ahead.

For me, there’s no doubt that I’ll “pay it forward” to recognize the kindness and generosity of those who have helped me. But at the same time, if I meet a writer who invites me in to see his/her pile of rejection letters, I refuse to go in their basement!

Who is Dave Butler?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADave Butler is a mystery/thriller writer from Cranbrook, BC who is the author of the Jenny Willson mystery series (Dundurn Press). Full Curl, the first in the series, in on store shelves now.

He’s a forester and biologist living in Cranbrook, British Columbia, in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. His writing and photography have appeared in numerous Canadian publications. He’s a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal winner, and a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. When he’s not writing, Dave is professionally involved in sustainable tourism at local, national and international levels and he travels extensively. www.davebutlerwriting.com

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Mystery Mondays: Amy Reade on Setting

HighlandPerilToday, we are celebrating tomorrow’s release of Highland Peril by author Amy Reade.   Congratulations, Amy!

Amy hosts a fabulous blog called Reade and Write. Today she’s talking to us about one of my favorite subjects: SETTING.

Setting the Scene

by Amy Reade

Whether I’m on a panel or at a book signing or visiting a book club, one of the questions I’m frequently asked is whether I consider setting to be a character in my books. I get the question so often that I’ve started putting it in the back of each book as one of the discussion topics.

Here’s my short answer (and yes, I’m answering a question with another question): would the book be the same if it were set someplace else? If no, then I would consider the setting a character. If yes, then setting is probably not one of the characters, however important it may be.

Novels with a strong setting tend to be my favorite books. The main reasons I read are to learn and to be entertained. When a book has a strong atmosphere and sense of place combined with a strong plot, not only do I lose myself in the story, but I also get the opportunity to learn about a new place (or learn more about a place I already know). This is even true for places that don’t actually exist, such as a fantasy world or a fictional town. Two examples that immediately spring to mind are Hogwarts (from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series), and Loch Dubh (from M.C. Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth series).

So how can a setting be a character? Let’s break down some of the qualities of well-drawn characters. Such characters generally have at least three components: personality, emotion or lack thereof, and the ability to change or move the plot along.

In some books, setting has those same three characteristics. Personality, emotion, and ability to move the plot forward can be indefinable when applied to a place rather than a person, but they are easily understood through examples.

Just as with a human character, a setting’s “personality” is its essence. Personality includes a place’s heritage, its culture, its climate; in other words, its specialness. Take, for example, a book set in New Orleans. New Orleans is a place of music, of storied cuisine, and of sultry heat. In any book I’ve ever read that takes place in New Orleans, at least one of those three components are essential to the plot. Such a book could never be set in Chicago without losing its essence.

And how about emotion? In much the same way a human character expresses emotion, a setting can be cheerful, spooky, stormy, listless, or almost any other adjective you can think of. This notion can be applied equally to any setting: towns and cities, houses, islands, boats, schools, hospitals, mountain tops, etc. You get the point.

When I think of a setting’s emotion, often what comes to mind is weather. Weather can play a huge role in a story—think of how wintry weather and blizzard conditions can affect the outcome of a particular plot. That same plot isn’t going to work as well if it’s set in a place where there are no blizzards; in other words, the frigid, blizzard-prone setting is essential to the story.

And when it comes to moving the plot forward, setting has the ability to do that as well as any character. In my first novel, Secrets of Hallstead House, the main character, Macy, can’t swim. The setting of the story is the Thousand Islands region of northern New York, on an island. When a person who can’t swim is put on an island, you can imagine the dread that can develop. And that story couldn’t have taken place, say, on a busy barrier island along the eastern seaboard—it had to take place on a small, isolated island in a region where the weather can be harsh and unpredictable. Just like a human character. There are several instances in Secrets of Hallstead House in which the direction of the plot is determined by the very nature of the island setting.

Now for my favorite part of this post. I’ve made a short list of some of my favorite books which feature setting as one of the characters. Though you may not be familiar with all of them, you are no doubt familiar with most of the titles. I am confident you’ll agree that setting is one of the main characters in each of these books. Remember, ask yourself this question: could this story have taken place anywhere else without losing its very essence?

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell: the setting is an absolutely essential part of each of these books, both of which take place in the American south. I would go so far as to say these books wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for the American south.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier: the setting of this book, the Cornish coast of England, is reflected in every action the characters take. Just like the characters, the cliffs and moors, the mansion, and the grounds in Rebecca are stormy, moody, and dark. The book would be fundamentally different if it took place anywhere else.

Heidi by Johanna Spyri: everyone knows the story of the little girl who went up the mountain to live with her gruff grandfather. The mountain is as important to the book as the main characters: Heidi loves the mountain just as she loves her grandfather and her friend Peter; the mountain provides a stark and necessary contrast to the bleak city where she lives temporarily. The story just wouldn’t be the same if Heidi lived in an area that was simply rural without being mountainous.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg: if you’re not familiar with this book, the majority of the action takes place in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The main characters, a brother and sister, run away from home and live in the museum for a time, trying to solve a mystery they find there. Whenever I think of this book, it’s the museum that comes to mind, not the human characters, not the mansion in the suburbs where they find someone who helps them in their quest, not the streets of New York City. It’s the museum—a setting-character if ever there was one.

Black Amber by Phyllis A. Whitney: this book, probably my favorite of Whitney’s works, is set in Turkey. The plot and setting are inextricably linked—you can’t have one without the other. The story wouldn’t be the same if it were set in, say, Michigan (not that there’s anything wrong with Michigan).

Finally, to my new book, Highland Peril, which comes out tomorrow. As in all my novels, the setting in Highland Peril is one of the book’s most important elements. The main characters live in a little village called Cauld Loch, and though I had to send them to London and Edinburgh for short stints, they always return home to the Highlands. The beauty, the majesty, and the rugged landscape are as important to the story as any character. If you get a chance to read the book, I hope you’ll agree.

Please share your thoughts about books with setting-characters. What are your favorites? Which ones stick in your mind?

Kristina, thank you so much for having me here today. I love the Mystery Monday posts because they make me think, and I hope I’ve done that for your readers.

Who Is Amy Reade?

Amy M. ReadeAmy M. Reade is a cook, chauffeur, household CEO, doctor, laundress, maid, psychiatrist, warden, seer, teacher, and pet whisperer. In other words, a wife, mother, and recovering attorney. But she also writes (how could she not write with that last name?) and is the author of The Malice Series (The House on Candlewick Lane, Highland Peril, and Murder in Thistlecross) and three standalone books, Secrets of Hallstead House, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, and House of the Hanging Jade. She lives in southern New Jersey, but loves to travel. Her favorite places to visit are Scotland and Hawaii and when she can’t travel she loves to read books set in far-flung locations.

Where Can You Find Amy?

Website: www.amymreade.com

Blog: www.amreade.wordpress.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/amreadeauthor

Facebook: www.facebook.com/groups/AmyMReadesGothicFictionFans

Twitter: www.twitter.com/readeandwrite

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/amreade

Instagram: www.instagram.com/amymreade

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Amy-M.-Reade/e/B00LX6ASF2/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Goodreads Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8189243.Amy_M_Reade

And Finally, Where Can You Buy Highland Peril?

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2uaP5dq

Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/2uzgzcD

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2v9ooHB

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2vKh6Hh

iTunes: http://apple.co/2ePwnTf

Independent Bookstore: http://www.indiebound.org/book/978151610018

Thanks for reading…

Mystery Mondays: Jacqueline T. Lynch on The Scene Of The Crime

Today on Mystery Monday, we have Jacqueline T. Lynch, author of Cadmium Yellow, Blood Red.  She has also published short stories and non-fiction books. Today we’ll find out a bit about the “Cozy Noir” genre.

The Scene of the Crime: Postwar New England by Jacqueline T. Lynch 

cybr_printI love “cozy” mysteries and love classic film noir. In combing the two genres for a mystery series, I chose not a sinister Gotham or a fog-shrouded San Francisco, or a sun-bleached and cynical Los Angeles in which to set my characters and stories like those old film noirs. I chose Connecticut in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

I write in a variety of genres: nonfiction history (predominantly New England), classic film criticism, a biography of actress Ann Blyth, as well as novels, and plays.

My Double V Mysteries series protagonists are a young widowed heiress and an ex-con.  They are implicated in crimes in the first book, Cadmium Yellow, Blood Red, and join together to prove their innocence, and in later books become hired sleuths.  I’m currently working on the fifth book in the series, set in a summer playhouse on the Connecticut shore in 1951.  The Double V name comes from their surnames: Juliet Van Allen and Elmer Vartanian.

The books are written in what I suppose I would term “cozy noir.”  Much like 1940s noir films (Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, etc.), grim crimes and crime-solving situations are presented without strong language or sexual scenes.  There is a bit of humor here and there, but for the most part the couple cautiously navigates the series subplot: a tenuous romance.  They each carry a lot of baggage from their pasts and are wary about becoming too close — but they’ll get there in time.

New England is my home and I am more familiar with this part of the country, but as with many historical novels, the era, I think, is even more important to the tone of the books than the geographical setting. Books enfold us an intimate sense of time travel, but it is perhaps easier for some readers to become lost in the Middle Ages or in the Regency period than in the 1950s, where we must actually be more familiar with the history of that period to immerse ourselves in the story and believe it. We may accept tales of knights and lords and ladies without really knowing much about everyday life in those olden times; but though the middle twentieth century is not as distant; in terms of technology and cultural events it might as well have been a millennium ago.

In the post-World War II years New England found itself at a crossroads. The population was shifting; wartime industry lured thousands to our nineteenth century mill towns, who then left the cities for the new suburban world being carved out of our farmland. In the 1950s, a good deal of that industry began to head south. New interstate highways seemed to aid the exodus, skirting cities, or else piercing through the heart of them. The 1950s saw the heyday of the great downtown department stores in Hartford, Connecticut—the duo’s home base—and summer theatre in the country towns.

Times were changing, and though we reached for the promise of a great future to wipe away the memory of war and Depression, we were also afraid of letting go of the past. Elmer, who had spent the war years in prison and feels guilty for having missed serving in the war, and missed his daughter’s childhood, is baffled by ballpoint pens, frozen orange juice concentrate, supermarkets, and a nuclear age that makes him feel a bit like Rip Van Winkle. Juliet is his guide, and ours, to this strange new world. The fads and even great events of the day: backyard bomb shelters, drive-in movies, and vanquishing polio will have a place in future books in this series—and crimes to be solved around them.

The first book, Cadmium Yellow, Blood Red, is about a museum heist, a missing child, and a murder introducing the recent ex-con and even more recent widow.

In Hartford, Connecticut, 1949, Juliet Van Allen, an administrator at the Wadsworth Atheneum, a prestigious art museum, discovers that her avant-garde artist husband is having an affair with another woman. Juliet’s husband is murdered, and she is the prime suspect. Elmer Vartanian, recently released from prison, is coerced into helping scout the museum for a heist by a gang that has kidnapped his daughter.

Juliet, the rebellious only daughter of a wealthy financier, and Elmer, a lower-class ex-convict who has educated himself in prison, must partner to solve their separate crises, compelled to work together while dogged by the scandal-monger newsman, the shrewd police detective, and scrutinized by the even more judgmental eye of Hartford’s elite in world where Modern Art meets old-fashioned murder.

 Who is Jacqueline T. Lynch?

JLynch photoJacqueline T. Lynch’s novels, short stories, and non-fiction books on New England history and film criticism are available from many online shops as eBooks, audiobooks, and paperback. She is also a playwright whose plays have been produced around the United States and in Europe, and has published articles and short fiction in regional and national publications. She writes Another Old Movie Blog on classic films, and the syndicated column Silver Screen, Golden Years.

Website:   www.JacquelineTLynch.com

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Mystery Mondays: Joanne Guidoccio on Finding Your Writing Voice

Today on Mystery Mondays we have author, Joanne Guidoccio.  Joanne is the author of Too Many Women In The Room. Doesn’t the title just make you want to read her book?

Well guess what? Read on to the end, and you have a chance to $10 amazon gift card, and with that you can buy Joanne’s book!

How Toastmasters Helped Me Find My Writing Voice

When I retired from teaching in 2008, I was determined to create an oasis of calm. Three decades of teaching mathematics to adolescents had cured me of any “yang” tendencies. Or so I thought. After several months of luncheon dates, book club meetings, afternoon yoga sessions, and large blocks of reading time, I found myself suffering from “yin” overload.

In short, I was bored.

I toyed with the prospect of launching a second act as a writer and spent considerable time preparing for my new career. New business cards. New computer. And dreams of a runaway best-seller.

One problem – my underdeveloped writing muscles refused to budge.

On a whim, I visited Royal City Toastmasters. Not knowing what to expect, I relaxed when I saw twelve people in the room, most of them women. I felt an instant camaraderie with the group and volunteered to participate in Table Topics (one to two minutes of impromptu speaking). As I stood in the front of the room, I received many encouraging smiles. I took several deep breaths and started to share an anecdote. At one point, everyone started clapping.

Was I that good? That profound? Thinking back, I could recall only one example of students clapping during my classes: I had canceled a test. Later, I learned that clapping was a signal that I had gone beyond the allotted time limit.

At the end of my second visit, I joined the club, with the understanding that my attendance would be sporadic, and I would not be completing any of the designations or hopping on the leadership track. While I admired the rising stars in the club, I had no desire to share their ambitions. I was retired and didn’t need any unnecessary stress in my life.

All that changed on the evening of my Icebreaker speech. I felt the proverbial butterflies and panicked when I saw ten extra guests that evening. I also worried about my choice of topic, “Seasons of my Life.” Would the speech be too deep, too personal? My worries were short-lived. Everyone enthusiastically responded to my speech, and I received many compliments afterward. More importantly, I enjoyed the adrenaline rush. So much so, that I pestered the Education VP for more speech opportunities. Several months later, I joined a second Toastmasters club. With six meetings a month, I was well on my way to completing the ten speeches in the Competent Communicator manual.

While I continued to read voraciously, I found myself scribbling comments and insights that later morphed into book reviews. I polished one of those reviews and sent it off to the editor of a local paper. He published the piece and invited me to join the ranks of contributing reviewers.

The quality of my writing also improved. Fewer shrinkers (words like “just,” “actually,” and “almost”) and disclaimers (“I’m not an expert, but”). More action verbs. More sharing of personal anecdotes. And a bubbling curiosity about different topics, among them health and wellness, careers, money management, and personal growth and development.

A writing practice slowly emerged, and I watched with delight as my articles appeared in newspapers, magazines, and online. Buoyed by this success, I resurrected an old writing dream concocted during my high school years and penned a novel. Three more followed and, after many queries, four publishing contracts.

On the Toastmaster front, I went on to complete the Competent Communicator, Competent Leadership, Bronze, and Silver designations. I have also won and placed in five speech contests and held three executive positions.

Nine years into retirement, I still enjoy my “yin” pursuits, and I’m continually challenged (in a good way) by the “yang” addition to my life.

Namaste


Giveaway:

Click on Rafflecopter for your chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.


 

TooManyWomenintheRoom_w11221_750 (2)When Gilda Greco invites her closest friends to a VIP dinner, she plans to share David Korba’s signature dishes and launch their joint venture— Xenia, an innovative Greek restaurant near Sudbury, Ontario. Unknown to Gilda, David has also invited Michael Taylor, a lecherous photographer who has throughout the past three decades managed to annoy all the women in the room. One woman follows Michael to a deserted field for his midnight run and stabs him in the jugular.

Gilda’s life is awash with complications as she wrestles with a certain detective’s commitment issues and growing doubts about her risky investment in Xenia. Frustrated, Gilda launches her own investigation and uncovers decades-old secrets and resentments that have festered until they explode into untimely death. Can Gilda outwit a killer bent on killing again?

Book Trailer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CORaCadAnbA

Buy Links

Amazon (US): https://is.gd/NRjAXT

Amazon (Canada): https://is.gd/1pX3Bn

Kobo: https://is.gd/5VwbTf

Indigo: https://is.gd/o3ZKRW

The Wild Rose Press: https://is.gd/1mns8Q

Barnes & Noble: https://is.gd/NFHdlS


WHO IS JOANNE GUIDOCCIO?

Guidoccio 001In 2008, Joanne retired from a 31-year teaching career and launched a second act that tapped into her creative side. Slowly, a writing practice emerged. Her articles and book reviews were published in newspapers, magazines, and online. When she tried her hand at fiction, she made reinvention a recurring theme in her novels and short stories. A member of Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime, and Romance Writers of America, Joanne writes cozy mysteries, paranormal romance, and inspirational literature from her home base of Guelph, Ontario.


Where to find Joanne…

Website: http://joanneguidoccio.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/joanneguidoccio

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorjoanneguidoccio

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joanneguidoccio

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/jguidoccio/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7277706.Joanne_Guidoccio


Giveaway:

Click on Rafflecopter for your chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.


 

Mystery Mondays: Angela Petch on Location (The Life of Fiction)

This week on Mystery Mondays, lets take a trip to Tuscany. We have Angela Petch, author of Tuscan Roots, here to share her thoughts on why setting is so important to a novel.

An Observation About Setting by Angela Petch

I was up front with Kristina when she accepted me here for Mystery Monday. My first novel is not a mystery novel in the truest sense of the word. But there is plenty of mystery involved: a young woman, Anna Swilland, is at a difficult stage in her life. She’s tired of being a mistress to a married man, she’s lost her job and her mother has just passed away. Anna inherits a diary in her mother’s will. She decides to travel to Italy to her mother’s birthplace – a village nestled in the Tuscan Apennines. There she begins to piece together unimaginable parts of her mother’s life that she could never have dreamt of. Anna falls in love with her new location and stays longer than planned…and the mystery of her background unfolds.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the beautiful settings where I live, and I recently came across a Southern American writer’s observations on the subject.

Eurora Welty said, “Every story would be another story, and unrecognisable if it took up its characters and plot and happened somewhere else…Fiction depends for its life on place. Place is the crossroads of circumstance, the proving ground of, what happened? Who’s here? Who’s coming…”.Writers describe the world they know. Sights, sounds, colors and textures are all vividly painted in words as an artist paints images on canvas. A writer imagines a story to be happening in a place that is rooted in his or her mind.”

I’ve come to realise that location plays a huge part in my writing: the way it impacts on my imagination, research, descriptions and ultimately my characters.

And this past week I’ve been confused.

Why? Let me explain: I live a “bi-life” – that’s how best to describe it.

I’m so lucky to live and work for six months of the year in a breathtakingly beautiful corner of Eastern Tuscany. Then during the winter months I live by the sea in Sussex, England, which is equally as stunning but very different. This week my routine suddenly changed and my location switched from Italy to England.

Having just launched my second novel “Now and Then in Tuscany”, the characters from this story are still very much with me… I see them when I walk up the mule tracks or shop in the village piazza. I see what they buy, watch them tend their vegetable plots and guide their sheep to the meadows. Ten days ago I ate in a house in the village of Montebotolino, where I’m convinced my main character, Giuseppe, lived.

In this narrow stone building with wide oak floorboards I shared wine, ate soup made from nettles gleaned from the hillside and frittata seasoned with Old Man’s Beard – surprisingly tasty fruits of the land. The window was ajar on a panorama of hazy blue Apennines, a nightingale provided song and I imagined Giuseppe outside, leaning against the warm stone walls. Was he waiting there to tell me of inaccuracies in my book? Or did he want to pass on the latest news of his wife and son?

But this week I’ve walked along the shingly flint-scattered shore of southern England and Giuseppe isn’t there beside me. Instead, two new personalities are dawdling in front of me, picking up shells, gossiping, nudging each other as they make their way to the café for tea and scones. And they are characters from my WIP.

It begs the question – is my imagination by itself – powerful enough to transport me where I need to go in a story? Or do I need to be in that location to kick-start my writing? What would I do if I were imprisoned in a tiny cell, with no window to look out over the world? Could I do it?

In fact, last year I did end up in a police cell in Arusha, Tanzania and I’d managed to smuggle in my pen and diary…and I scribbled down some thoughts while the guards weren’t looking… But that story is for another day.

WHO IS ANGELA PETCH?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m an award winning writer of fiction – and the occasional poem. Now that my children are independent I am freer to dive into my writing and have begun to extend my readership through social media. I find this hard but also weirdly exciting in the new horizons it offers. I’m a child of the 1950’s and free time was spent with my nose in books. My three year old grandson loves books too but he is much better than I am with an I-pad. “It’s never too late,” whispers a voice in my head as I merrily tweet or press “Like”.

Every summer I move to Tuscany for six months where my husband and I own a renovated watermill which we let out to holidaymakers from across the globe. When not exploring this unspoilt corner of the Apennines, I disappear to my writing desk at the top of a converted stable.

In my Italian handbag or hiking rucksack I always store notebook and pen, for I never know when an idea for a story might strike and I don’t want it to drift away.

The winter months are spent in England, on the Sussex coast where most of our family live. When not helping out with grandchildren, I catch up with writer friends and enjoy walking along the shore, often moody and squally in the winter months. But very inspiring.

I’ve lived abroad for most of my life, including several childhood years in Italy. After graduating with honours in Italian from the University of Kent at Canterbury, I worked for a short spell for The Times newspaper, before moving to new employment in Amsterdam. The job relocated to Sicily, where I met my half-Italian husband. We married near Urbino and then went to live for three magical years in Tanzania. Wherever I travel I store sights, sounds and memories of those places for stories I feel compelled to record.

 

TUSCAN ROOTS:

 Front Cover“Tuscan Roots” is my first novel.

First published in 2012, as “Never Forget”, my publishing company went bankrupt and having lost control of my book and all royalties, I was forced to edit and reissue under this new title in 2016.

Inspired by the true story of my Italian mother-in-law, Giuseppina Micheli, who met and later married a dashing army captain in 1944, “Tuscan Roots” combines their story with the events that took place along the so-called Gothic Line. This defensive barrier crosses the area where the author lives. It is still possible to visit gun emplacements and remains of fortifications scattered across the hills. A fluent Italian speaker and graduate of Italian literature and language, I was able to interview local people for their memories of the war years.

“Tuscan Roots” is a story of two women living in two different times. In 1943, in occupied Italy, Ines Santini’s sheltered existence is turned upside down when she meets Norman, an escaped British POW.

In 1999, Anna Swilland, their daughter, starts to unravel accounts from assorted documents left to her after her mother’s death. She travels to the breathtakingly beautiful Tuscan Apennines, where the story unfolds.

In researching her parents’ past, she will discover secrets about war, her parents and herself, which will change her life forever…”

PRAISE FOR TUSCAN ROOTS

 

“…moving and interesting” – Julia Gregson, bestselling author of “East of the Sun”.

“The fascination of this extremely readable novel is how the author deftly handles the multifaceted cultural differences: Italy of the 1940s and today but also between Italy and England of yesteryear and the difficulties encountered by the war brides coming to a cold and distant land and finally, the experiences of the heroine, Anna, who even today is plunged into a different world on her ‘time travels’ which will change her own life completely.” John Broughton – Amazon reviewer.

“There are small echoes of Forster’s “Where Angels Fear to Tread” and of Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. The book’s essential of discovery and revelation through “diaries” is reminiscent of Victoria Hislop’s successful and moving “The Island”, but “Tuscan Roots” is better written and a much better book. The characters are very real…” Amazon reviewer.

“Once I started to read I simply couldn’t stop and fell in love with the location and the characters. Tuscan Roots has a little something for everyone. As far as history is concerned it certainly it has a fascinating insight into the war years in Italy and its immediate aftermath in England. There is sadness, there is drama and absolutely there is a love story. All with the most beautiful descriptions of a country that the author both knows and loves. Can’t wait to read her next book. Highly recommended. Vivienne Wendy Jones – Amazon reviewer.

“A feast of a book. Angela writes with assurance and a descriptive power which transports you to Tuscany; the taste; the scenery; the history. It comes from a deep love and knowledge of the area.” Rosemary Noble – GOODREADS

(The sequel to “Tuscan Roots” was launched on April 30th 2017. “Now and Then in Tuscany” is available on Amazon, in Kindle and paperback: http://bit.ly/NTuscany)

WHERE TO FIND ANGELA

 Facebook Author Page

Amazon Author Page

Twitter

Arun scribes – Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1124757317646074/

Il Mulino: www.ilmulinorofelle.com (where I live in the summer)

Goodreads:

Website – (Under construction but to be published soon)

Link for “Tuscan Roots”: mybook.to/TuscanRoots

Link for “Now and Then in Tuscany”: https:bit.ly/NTuscany

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mystery Mondays: Edith Maxwell on Write What You Know – Plus Some

Welcome once again to Mystery Mondays. Today we have the pleasure of hearing from award-winning author Edith Maxwell.  Find out what she has to say about finding a dead body in a greenhouse…

Write What You Know – Plus Some by Edith Maxwell

I’m delighted to be a guest here today.  Mulch Ado About Murder, my fifth Local Foods Mystery, is coming out soon, so it’s a good time to talk about the origins of the story and the research I do, too.

The series is set on an organic farm with a group of  locavores – local foods enthusiasts – as recurring characters. The series has its roots in the fertile soil of the farm I formerly owned and operated in the northeast corner of Massachusetts. It was the smallest certified organic farm in Essex County. I’d had organic gardens for years, but wanted to work on a slightly larger scale, so it made sense to start this project when my sons were young and I was taking a few years off my hi-tech career.

When I started to write crime fiction, it made sense for me to use my knowledge of small-scale farming as backdrop to the mysteries. Being older and not quite as energetic as I was then, I love immersing myself in the world of growing without having to do all the hard work! One of my little boys is now a twenty-eight year old permaculture farmer who has kept chickens, so I have a current-day consultant on the books when I need one.

Of course, we authors don’t only write what we know. I might have begun with a modest organic farm located in a town much like the one mine was in, but the imagination takes over soon after.  My farmer Cam Flaherty is taller, much younger, and more of an introvert than me, and she’s also single. I didn’t have a Locavore Club knocking on my barn door fervently asking to sign up for my farm share program. And I certainly never found a dead body in my greenhouse – nor would I have attempted to solve the mystery if I had.

But that’s what fiction is for, right? I’ve been happy writing a book a year  about farming for Kensington Publishing, and along the way acquired a few other multi-book contracts, too. Called to Justice, my latest historical Quaker Midwife Mystery, released a month ago, and When the Grits Hit the Fan, Country Store Mystery number three (written as Maddie Day), came out only ten days before it. I’m living my dream writing about what I know – plus some.

Who is Edith Maxwell?

MaxwellCrop2017 double Agatha-nominated and national best-selling author Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries and the Local Foods Mysteries; as Maddie Day she writes the Country Store Mysteries and the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. Her award-winning short crime fiction has appeared in many juried anthologies and journals, and she serves as President of Sisters in Crime New England.

A fourth-generation Californian and former tech writer, farmer, and doula, Maxwell now writes, cooks, gardens (and wastes time as a Facebook addict) north of Boston with her beau and three cats. She blogs at WickedCozyAuthors.com, Killer Characters, and with the Midnight Ink authors. Find her on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and at www.edithmaxwell.com.

Mulch Ado About Murder HCMulch Ado About Murder

It’s been a hot, dry spring in Westbury, Massachusetts. As organic farmer Cam Flaherty waits for much-needed rain, storm clouds of mystery begin to gather. Once again, it’s time to put away her sun hat and put on her sleuthing cap when a fellow farmer is found dead in a vat of hydroponic slurry—clutching a set of rosary beads. Showers may be scarce this spring, but there’s no shortage of suspects, including the dead woman’s embittered ex-husband, the Other Man whose affair ruined their marriage, and Cam’s own visiting mother. Lucky for Cam, her nerdy academic father turns out to have a knack for sleuthing. Will he and Cam be able to clear Mom’s name before the killer strikes again?

Mystery Mondays: Christina Hoag on Know Your Genre

This week on Mystery Mondays we have Christina Hoag, author of SKIN OF TATTOOS, and GIRL ON THE BRINK. I met Christina through this blog, so it’s pleasure to have her on as a guest. She’ll share her experience about genres and why and author needs to know where their novel fits.

The Importance of Genre

By Christina Hoag

One of those writing clichés tells aspiring authors to “write the book you want to read.” That may be true, but make sure your book fits into an accepted genre or no one else will read it.

As I was writing my noir thriller Skin of Tattoos, I never gave a thought as to what kind of a book it would be, as in what genre it fell into. After all, a good story is a good story, right? Not quite. As I later painfully discovered, genre is critical. It is how publishers market your book. If your book doesn’t fit neatly into a category, they don’t how to sell it and guess what, they won’t buy it.

Luckily, genre didn’t seem to matter in getting a literary agent. After much querying I landed a good agent, after first signing with a bad one. But then the agent had to figure out how to pitch the book. Was it noir, which involves telling an inside crime story from the point of view of the criminal? Well, yes. My novel is set in the gang underworld of Los Angeles and is told in first-person by a gang member protagonist. Or was it a thriller, which involves escalating tension between two characters as they battle over high stakes? That also loosely applied to my book as Mags, the narrator, is in a power and revenge struggle with his rival homeboy Rico for leadership of the gang.

Then there was my style. Amid the gang slang, Spanish phrases and occasional profanity, there was a lot of lyrical prose that wasn’t the usual style for a thriller, plus Mags’s character has an arc. In the end, the agent described it as a “literary thriller.” Although I hadn’t thought of myself as a thriller writer before, I thought that was an accurate enough description and out the book went.

The rejections rolled in. There was high praise for the writing, story elements, originality, and so on but the most pervasive comment was “who would be the audience for this book?” In other words, “literary thriller” wasn’t cutting it, especially coming from an unknown author. My agent consoled me, saying these were rejections based on “business decisions,” which was much better than having the book rejected for story reasons. Still, I saw that my book was too different, too original. I lamented that to my agent, who responded “publishers do want original stuff, but at the same time they want the same stuff. The same, but different.” Not very helpful.

Eventually, she ran out of places to submit and I got my manuscript back, but I wasn’t going to give up on it. I knew it was a good book. Top publishing editors had said so. I just needed to find someone to take a chance on it. I revised it yet again, cutting out about 13,000 words, including stuff that both agents had me add and that I now saw went nowhere. In fact, the additions didn’t make much sense and simply made the manuscript too long.

I sent the tightened version out to small publishers that accepted unagented submissions. The same thing happened. It was praised, but it didn’t fit in their lists. I started to despair then a publisher, Martin Brown Publishing, offered me a contract on it.

Skin of Tattoos finally was released in August and has been well received. Several readers told me the book is “unlike anything I’ve read before.” I take that as a compliment, unfortunately the mainstream publishing industry doesn’t.

I had another genre problem with my second novel, a YA called Girl on the Brink I was calling it a “contemporary romance,” but it’s not a romance because it’s about teen dating violence. Romance novels must have a happy-ever-after ending, which mine does not. But then the genre gods blessed me. I discovered my book did have a built in category: “contemporary social issues.” Since it contains a lot of suspense and escalating tension between the protagonist and the guy she fell for, I also describe it as a “romantic thriller,” which sounds like a less heavy read.

As for my third book, I’m making it a thriller after another discovery: I have to have an author brand because I’m expected to keep writing the same genre to build readership. So although I never set out to write thrillers, that’s now become my brand by default. Moral of the story: Know your genre.

WHO IS CHRISTINA HOAG

ChristinaHoagAuthorHeadshotChristina Hoag is a former journalist for the Miami Herald and Associated Press who’s been threatened by a murderer, had her laptop searched by Colombian guerrillas and phone tapped in Venezuela, hidden under a car to evade Guatemalan soldiers, posed as a nun to get inside a Caracas jail, interviewed gang members, bank robbers, thieves and thugs in prisons, shantytowns and slums, not to forget billionaires and presidents, some of whom fall into the previous categories. Kirkus Reviews praised Christina as a “talented writer” with a “well crafted debut” in Skin of Tattoos (Martin Brown Publishing, 2016), a gangland thriller. Her YA thriller Girl on the Brink (Fire and Ice, 2016) was named to Suspense Magazine’s Best of 2016 YA list. She also writes nonfiction, co-authoring Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence (Turner Publishing, 2014), a groundbreaking book on violence intervention used in several universities. Christina makes her home in Santa Monica and lives on the web at http://www.christinahoag.com.

SKIN OF TATTOOS

Los Angeles homeboy Magdaleno is paroled from prison after serving time on a gun poSkinofTattoosCoverssession frameup by a rival, Rico, who takes over as gang shotcaller in Mags’s absence. Mags promises himself and his Salvadoran immigrant family a fresh start, but he can’t find either the decent job or the respect he craves from his parents and his firefighter brother, who look at him as a disappointment. Moreover, Rico, under pressure to earn money to free the Cyco Lokos’ jailed top leader and eager to exert his authority over his rival-turned-underling, isn’t about to let Mags get out of his reach. Ultimately, Mags’s desire for revenge and respect pushes him to make a decision that ensnares him in a world seeded with deceit and betrayal, where the only escape from rules that carry a heavy price for transgression is sacrifice of everything – and everyone – he loves.

GIRL ON THE BRINK

GirlOnTheBrinkCoverHe was perfect. At first. The summer before senior year, Chloe starts an internship as a reporter at a local newspaper. While on assignment, she meets Kieran, a quirky aspiring actor. Chloe becomes smitten with Kieran’s charisma and his ability to soothe her soul, torn over her parents’ impending divorce. But as their bond deepens, Kieran becomes smothering and flies into terrifying rages. He confides in Chloe that he suffered a traumatic childhood, and Chloe is moved to help him. If only he could be healed, she thinks, their relationship would be perfect. But her efforts backfire, and Kieran turns violent. Chloe breaks up with him, but Kieran pursues her relentlessly to make up. Chloe must make the heartrending choice between saving herself or saving Kieran, until Kieran’s mission of remorse turns into a quest for revenge.